An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Tangshi pinhui 唐詩品彙

Jan 20, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

Tangshi pinhui 唐詩品彙 "Collection of classified Tang poetry" is a collection of Tang-period 唐 (618-907) shi 詩-style poems compiled during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Gao Bing 高棅 (1350-1423), also called Gao Yanli 高廷禮, courtesy name Yanqiu 彥秋, style Manshi 漫士. He hailed from Changle 長樂, Fujian, and belonged to the "ten talents from Fujian" (Minzhong shi caizi 閩中十才子, the others being Lin Hong 林鴻 (b. c. 1338), Zheng Ding 鄭定, Wang Bao 王褒 (d. 1416), Tang Tai 唐泰 (jinshi degree 1388), Wang Gong 王恭 (fl. 1406), Chen Liang 陳亮, Wang Cheng 王偁 (1370-1415), Zhou Xuan 周玄 and Huang Xuan 黃玄). During the Yongle reign-period 永樂 (1403-1424), he served as editorial assistant (zhaodai 待詔) in the Hanlin Academy 翰林院. His collected writings are called Xiaotai ji 嘯臺集 and Mutian qingqi ji 木天清氣集.

The collection has a length of 90-juan and has a supplement (Shiyi 拾遺) of 10 juan. The compilation of the book began in 1384 and was only finished in 1393, the supplement in 1398. It includes 5,769 poems of 620 writers in total, the supplement a further number of 954 poems by 61 authors. Gao Bing was of the opinion that earlier collection of Tang poetry were too concise and not able to present a picture of the whole literary genre, for instance, Yang Shihong's 楊士弘 (Yuan period 元, 1279-1368) book Tangyun 唐音, which was very important for the theoretical background of poems, but lacked substance in giving the reader an impression of the writings of excellent poets of that time: It "missed some pearls" (yi zhu 遺珠).

The poems of the main part of Gao's book are arranged according to the type of poems, namely ancient five-syllable poems (wuyan gushi 五言古詩), ancient seven-syllable poems (qiyan gushi 七言古詩, with an appendix of "long and short lines", changduanju 長短句), five-syllable quatrains (wuyan jueju 五言絕句, with an appendix of six-syllable quatrains, liuyan jueju 六言絕句), seven-syllable quatrains (qiyan jueju 七言絕句), five-syllable regulated poems (wuyan lüshi 五言律詩), five-syllable regulated sequential couplets (wuyan pailü 五言排律), and seven-syllable regulated poems (qiyan lüshi 七言律詩, with an appendix of seven-syllable regulated sequential couplets, qiyan pailü 七言排律). Each chapter was headed by an introduction (xumu 敘目).

The poems of the supplement are arranged chronologically and according to their status as writers. These nine qualitative "statuses" (pin 品) are already seen in the chapters of the main collection. Chen Zi'ang 陳子昂 (661-702) and Li Bai 李白 (701-762), for instance, are seen as "superior writers" (zhengzong 正宗), while Liu Changqing 劉長卿 (c. 726-c. 790), Qian Qi 錢起 (c. 722-780), Wei Yingwu 韋應物 (c. 737-791), Liu Zongyuan 柳宗元 (773-819), Gao Shi 高適 (704—765) and Cen Cantong 岑參同 (c. 718-c. 769) are only regarded as "famous writers" (mingjia 名家). Other classes are "pathbreakers" (zhengshi 正始), "great writers" (dajia 大家), "wings" (yuyi 羽翼), "changers of the standard style" (zhengbian 正變) or as "lingering sounds" (yuxiang 餘響).

The collection is not only quite valuable because it assembles the most splendid examples of Tang period poetry, but also because the compiler presents an introduction into the history of Tang poems, writers, styles, and modes. His analysis is based on Yan Yu's 嚴羽 (d. c. 1245) poetry critique Canglang shihua 滄浪詩話 from the Song period 宋 (960-1279) in which Tang poetry is divided into four phases. The poems were critically influenced by historical circumstances and therefore are also an expression of political history. The theoretical explanation are also helpful to understand the intricate style of regular poems (shi) written during the Song and Yuan periods.

Quite helpful are Gao Bing's listings of important writers and sources, Lidai minggong xulun 歷代名公敘論, Yinyong zhushu 引用諸書 (sources) and Shiren jueli xiangjie 詩人爵里詳節. These include concise ratings of Tang period poets and their works.

Gao Bing's praise for Tang regular poems was the main source for their enthusiastic reception by the so-called Former and Later Seven Masters (Qian qi zi 前七子, Houqizi 後七子), two groups of literary theoreticians from the Ming period. It was widely read in academies and schools. Unfortunately Gao's qualitative statuses were not defined theoretically but follow intuitive classifications. Wang Shizhen 王士禛 (1634-1711), author of the essay collection Xiangzu bijji 香祖筆記, criticized that Li Bai was defined as a zhengzong 正宗 "Right ancestor/paradigm", Du Fu 杜甫 (712-770) as a dajia 大家 "grand master", and Wang Wei 王維 (692-761), Gao Shi and Li Xin 李頎 (690-751) just as mingjia 名家 "famous masters". Wang felt that the last three deserved the status of dazong. Similar criticism towards Gao's assessment of literary quality were brought forward by Li Ciming 李慈銘 (1830-1895), author of the Yuemantang dushu ji 越縵堂讀書記.

The collection was first printed during the Chenghua reign-period 成化 (1465-1487) by Chen Wei 陳煒. This version includes the prefaces by Ma Dehua 馬德華 and Wang Cheng 王偁 (1370-1415) from 1401, as well as that of Lin Ci 林慈 from 1395. A modern edition was published in 1982 by the Shanghai Guji Press 上海古籍出版社, based on the annotated edition by Wang Zongni 汪宗尼 from the Ming period. Critical notes were also made by the Ming scholars Wang Jishu 汪季舒, Lu Yunzhong 陸允中 and Zhang Xun 張恂 (jinshi degree 1643). Critique was also brought forward by Qian Qianyi 錢謙益 (1582-1664) and Ye Xie 葉燮 (1627-1703).

The Tangshi pinhui is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

There were several abbreviated versions of the book, the first compiled by Gao Bing himself, called Tangshi zhengsheng 唐詩正聲. This 22-juan-long book is a selection from the >Tangshi pinhui. Yu Xian 俞憲 (jinshi degree 1538) compiled an "abbreviated and revised" 50-juan version called Shanzheng Tangshi pinhui 刪正唐詩品彙, and Zhu Kesheng 朱克生 (1631—1679) compiled the short version Tangshi pinhui shan 唐詩品彙刪, a book of 18 juan.

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